The Frontstretch: Couch Potato Tuesday: A Tale Of Two TNTs In 2012 NASCAR Debut by Phil Allaway -- Tuesday June 12, 2012

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Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where race telecast criticism is the name of the game. This past weekend, the Sprint Cup Series made their first trip of the season to Pocono Raceway for the newly shortened Pocono 400. This race also marked the return of Turner Sports (via TNT) for their 30th season of covering Sprint Cup races (yes, they’ve been around since 1983). Meanwhile, the Camping World Truck Series and Izod IndyCar Series took on the high banks of Texas Motor Speedway.

SPEED provided great coverage of the Camping World Truck Series at Texas Motor Speedway this week.

WinStar World Casino 400k

On Friday night, the Camping World Truck Series returned from their latest hiatus to run their traditional Friday night race at Texas Motor Speedway.

The Setup had two features of note. First was a piece on Miguel Paludo and his son, Oliver, who I’m told is really cute (Actually, that is a statement from Paludo’s PR rep, Jessica Trippy). Oliver has Juvenile Diabetes and Paludo ran a special scheme during the race to promote efforts to combat the disease. Krista Voda sat down with Miguel and his wife Patricia to discuss Oliver’s diagosis, how the Paludo’s deal with Oliver’s diabetes, and how Miguel deals with his own diabetes. This was a nice feature, however, we sort of beat SPEED to the punch. Our own Beth Lunkenheimer sat down with Paludo last Thursday and wrote a piece about his diabetes and efforts with the International Diabetes Federation that ran Friday, prior to the race.

Another feature had Ray Dunlap travel up to the Red Horse Racing shop and spend time talking with some of the employees there. We learned about how the team does not distinguish between the different trucks at the shop. Employees will work on trucks for the now-shuttered No. 7, 11 or 17, sometimes all of them in the same day. Team owner Tom DeLoach talked about his ideology with the race team, in addition to how he got into racing (for lack of better words, he got dragged to Qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, likely pre-split, then fell in love with it). We also found out how DeLoach adapted the number box from Mobil 1 motor oil (he was working for Mobil when he got the racing itch) for his own race trucks.

The race telecast provided viewers with exciting action and pretty good commentary. There was lots of action for position shown throughout the field, which is always good to see. The only real gripe I had with the race coverage itself was the fact that SPEED didn’t really get a good view of the incident involving Paulie Harraka and Rick Crawford. They were covering a battle for 17th between Ron Hornaday and Ross Chastain when the wreck broke out right in front of them. We never got a decent view of what caused the wreck. It is assumed that the two trucks collided and crashed, though.

Post-race coverage was relatively brief due to the race being over its timeslot. There were only two interviews (winner Johnny Sauter and Matt Crafton), along with checks of the Unofficial Results and Point Standings before SPEED left the air. I wished that there was more post-race coverage knowing that there wasn’t much of note on SPEED after the race.

Firestone 550k

After two races on ABC, the Izod IndyCar Series returned to the NBC Sports Network Saturday night for the Firestone 550k. Unlike last year, in which Jenkins and the pit reporters were put out there to emcee the ceremonies between races, this year, it was a traditional 340+ mile race. I suppose that’s for the better.

Also of note, there were two on-air changes due to TNT’s Summer Series starting on Sunday. Tommy Kendall was in the broadcast booth as an analyst, replacing Wally Dallenbach, Jr. Kendall never raced an IndyCar (he’s best known for accomplishments in Trans-Am and IMSA, along with coming within a couple of laps of winning the 1991 Banquet 300 at Sears Point). However, Kendall worked on CART broadcasts for ESPN back in the late 1990’s and has done races as an analyst for SPEED in the past, most recently during the Rolex 24 in January. He’s somewhat solid. Replacing Marty Snider as a pit reporter was Robin Miller. Yes, that Miller. He worked out fine. Good to see him actually doing something during the race for a change.

IndyCar Central started off with a recap of the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, which I will admit was probably the worst of the six races so far this season. The track breakup just plain stunk. Simple as that.

There was also a substantial amount of focus given to the new aerodynamic package that was mandated for the cars in Texas. Certain pieces that made downforce were taken off of the cars and wing angle was limited. This was all done to help eliminate pack racing and put the race more in the driver’s hands. Anyone who watched Saturday night would agree that it worked. I think there’s a good chance that the package could be used again at Auto Club Speedway later this year. Jon Beekhuis walked viewers through the various changes, and we also got thoughts on the changes from a few drivers (and even a dissenting view from Ed Carpenter).

Race coverage featured quite a lot of passing and (as promised) a completely different way of racing. Stuff like tire strategy came into play for the first time in forever (seriously, I can’t recall tire wear affecting an Izod IndyCar Series race much in recent years). NBC Sports did a good job showing the action out on track. I think they should have done a second Through the Field at some point during the second half of the race, though (the first one was curtailed on Lap 90 when Oriol Servia pitted out of turn).

Probably the biggest call of the race was when Will Power was penalized for making a reactionary move on the final restart that resulted in Tony Kanaan breaking his nose. Compared to Twitter, there was a lot more agreement about Beaux Barfield’s call to penalize Power (On Twitter, they were evicserating Barfield for “Inserting himself into the final outcome of the race.”)

Pocono 400

Sunday afternoon brought the Sprint Cup Series back to TNT for the first race of the “Summer Series.” Since the end of last year’s Summer Series, there has been only one change. Lindsay Czarniak left Turner Sports (and her day job at WRC, the NBC affiliate in Washington) right after the Summer Series ended to take on a role at ESPN mainly hosting SportsCenter. Of course, having said that, she’s also scheduled to host the 9am Sunday morning edition of NASCAR Now this weekend in place of Shannon Spake.

Turner Sports chose not to replace Czarniak. Instead, Adam Alexander is now pulling double-duty. He now hosts Countdown to Green with Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds and does play-by-play commentary. Alexander did well hosting pre-race. It’s not the same as having Czarniak there, but this is a decent temporary move.

Countdown to Green usually contains series of features, and this year is no different. Sunday saw the unveiling of the NASCAR Generations series, where drivers from many different era discuss certain aspects of their careers. This week, the drivers included Jimmie Johnson, Bill Elliott, Petty and Ned Jarrett. Alexander led the discussion about each driver’s first vehicle used for racing purposes. It was quite interesting to watch. Despite the stark differences in the beginnings of each driver’s career, there were some overall similarities.

McReynolds showed off his new “Toy Box,” which is a touchscreen not dissimilar to what ESPN has in their Craftsman Tech Garage, or what Jeff Hammond had at his disposal during the FOX portion of the season that just ended. It’s really no different than those other touchscreens, but it is a little different having McReynolds at it. It is actually situated in the studio that is typically used for the post-post race show.

Race coverage was quite a bit different than what we’ve been used to for the past 15 weeks on FOX. There was a bit more variety in the racing that was being shown to viewers. There was also a decrease in the amount of in-car camera usage.

However, the big story from Sunday’s race was all the pit road speeding penalties, especially in the first half of the race. I’m not really sure how FOX would have handled this had it occurred in one of their races (remember, this was basically uncharted territory here). My best guess is that they would have tried to be conciliatory and not try to throw anyone under the bus. However, TNT’s booth was understanding at first, then became somewhat critical once we got to black flag No. 6 or so. For lack of better words, Petty was convinced that something was up on NASCAR’s end and was quite vocal about it. One Twitter user basically asked Kyle during the race just who the heck he was to make such statements. He replied simply that he’s a TV announcer. I’m perfectly fine with Petty’s approach here. That’s what makes him who he is. No filter or restrictor plate on Petty’s mouth. The timing lines were controversial and they needed to be publicized. TNT did a great job in doing it.

Post-race coverage was quite decent in size. During the regular TNT portion of post-race, there were six driver interviews and checks of the unofficial results and point standings, in addition to some post-race analysis. Not bad.

Then, we got to the RaceBuddy-exclusive portion that is internet-only. Here’s where the problems started. First, replacing Czarniak here was Snider. Not a bad move. However, its not like anybody watching it would have known because there was a terrible audio problem. We could not hear Snider or McReynolds for the entire length of the show. I have no idea why this was so, or even why they couldn’t have just put the show on standby until they fixed the audio. The segments with Snider and McReynolds were the only ones that were live. The sound was fine in the three RaceBuddy-exclusive interviews and the Inside Trax piece with Jamie McMurray’s team that aired. Of note, Robin Pemberton basically blamed the teams for the 22 penalties, claiming that they had updated maps with the timing lines and not everybody picked them up. The insinuation seemed to be that the teams that got busted were the ones that didn’t get the new maps and assumed that the sections were the same as last year. Would have loved to see a reaction from Petty and Wally Dallenbach to that statement.

Aside from the problematic RaceBuddy-exclusive content, TNT’s telecast was pretty good. It was a definite change in tone from FOX’s bombasticity. I think Alexander is finally used to doing play-by-play commentary, even though he is still the weakest of the three TNT booth mates. However, I’m eager to see what you guys thought.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the traveling circus moves to Michigan International Speedway, a two-mile super duper speedway (Note: In NASCAR Racing 2003 Season for the PC, there was in fact an option for a “Super Duper Speedway” car that could go well over 250 mph). Now, we won’t be seeing Hanford Device-era speeds this upcoming weekend, but its still going to be pretty got-darn quick. The Sprint Cup Series will be joined there by the Nationwide and ARCA Racing Series.

TV LISTINGS

Friday, June 15

Time Telecast Network
11:30am-12:30pm Nationwide Series Practice SPEED
12:30-2:00pm Sprint Cup Series Practice SPEED
2:00-3:30pm Nationwide Series Happy Hour SPEED
3:30-5:00pm Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour SPEED
5:00-7:00pm ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards Raineater Wiper Blades 200 SPEED
8:00-8:30pm SPEED Center SPEED
10:00-11:00pm Road to Le Mans: Racing Redefined! SPEED

Saturday, June 16

Time Telecast Network
8:30am-1:00pm 24 Hours of Le Mans: The Start (Part 1) SPEED
11:00am-12:30pm Nationwide Series Qualifying ESPN 2
1:00-2:30pm Sprint Cup Series Qualifying SPEED
1:00-2:30pm 24 Hours of Le Mans Part 2 SPEEDtv.com^
1:00-3:30pm Izod IndyCar Series Milwaukee IndyFest ABC
2:30-7:00pm 24 Hours of Le Mans Part 3 SPEED
3:30-3:45pm NASCAR Countdown ABC
3:45-6:00pm Nationwide Series Alliance Truck Parts 250 ABC
7:00-7:30pm SPEED Center SPEED
7:00-7:30pm 24 Hours of Le Mans Part 4 SPEEDtv.com^
7:30pm-9:30am 24 Hours of Le Mans Part 5 (To the Finish) SPEED

Sunday, June 17

Time Telecast Network
Saturday night-9:30am 24 Hours of Le Mans, Conclusion SPEED
9:00-10:00am NASCAR Now, Pre-Race ESPN 2
9:30-10:00am SPEED Center, Pre-Race SPEED
10:00am-12:00pm NASCAR RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco SPEED
12:00-1:00pm Countdown to Green TNT
12:00-2:00pm Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio SPEED*
1:00-4:30pm Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 TNT
~4:30-5:30pm NASCAR Victory Lane SPEED
7:00-8:00pm SPEED Center, Post-Race SPEED
9:00-10:00pm Wind Tunnel SPEED

*- Tape Delayed
~- Approximate start time
^- Available via free online streaming

The Road to Le Mans special that premieres Friday night on SPEED is a look at Toyota’s factory effort that is returning to Le Mans this year for the first time since 1999. They are considered to be the primary competition to Audi’s R18’s this year.

For next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday, I will bring you critiques of the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and ARCA events at Michigan. For the Critic’s Annex in the Frontstretch Newsletter, I will provide you with a critique of this past weekend’s Pocono ARCA 200 telecast from Pocono Raceway. The Road to Le Mans special will be covered for the June 21 edition of the Annex.

If you have a gripe with me, or just want to say something about my critique,
feel free to post in the comments below, or contact me through the email address provided on the website in my bio. Also, if you want to “like” me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, please click on the appropriate icons below. Finally, if you would like to contact any of the TV partners personally with an issue regarding their TV coverage from last weekend, please click on the following links:

FOX
SPEED
ESPN

As always, if you choose to contact the network by email, do so in a courteous manner. Network representatives are far more likely to respond to emails that ask questions politely rather than emails full of rants and vitriol.

Contact Phil Allaway

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RickP
06/12/2012 07:42 AM
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I was at the Indy (and NCWTS) race and it was a snoozer. Without the pack racing, the excitement was nonexistent. Yes, there was some passing but it was rarely due to hard racing but rather someone’s car would “come in” over a run while another one would “go away”. Overall, it was quite the disappointment compared to the Indy races of the past at TMS.

john
06/12/2012 08:29 AM
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I’d rather have tire strategy and hard cars to drive around a giant oval in an Indycar than pack racing. What you’re really trying to say is “I like pack racing in Indycar and plate racing in NASCAR because of 12-car pileups, and someone could die.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather have NEITHER of those things and see some good solid side-by-side racing between two or maybe three cars… Which is what you usually get at a PROPER Indycar oval like Milwaukee or Iowa.

Joe
06/12/2012 10:34 AM
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I actually enjoyed watching the Cup race on TV. TNT did a pretty good job in presenting a TV program that reproduces some of the feel of actually being AT the race. Even Wally didn’t annoy me on Sunday. Too bad they only get a handful of races to broadcast!

Earner
06/12/2012 03:13 PM
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Gotta say the Pocono telecast was refreshing after the waltrip wang..& Keep Petty there & talking straight as I think he maybe the only non politicly correct anouncer left…(yeah Kyle don’t start kissin butt(DW & MW) keep tellin like ya see it…& Joe I’m with you in that Wally didn’t seem as annoying (& incorrect) as I recall (it’s early though)…Not a bad race at all

mkrcr
06/12/2012 09:35 PM
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I’ll take TNT for all the races.I don’t mind Larry Mac and the blissful peace of not having to endure a Waltrip was enough to keep me from hitting the mute button and nodding off. I still have this bad feeling that Ole’ DW will manage to weasel his way in somewhere.

Steve
06/13/2012 03:53 PM
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RickP, cars going side by side for 50 laps because they can’t pass is not exciting racing. Its a parade.

However, tire strategy and driver skill are now back into play and it made for a hell of a race. Maybe John is right, you probably just watch the race for the 12 car pileups and the chance that someone might get killed.

Looking forward to Milwaukee and Iowa the next few weeks. Don’t think the Cup race will be great and will be a parade most of the day. RickP might like it though.